Pachinko is a game that isn’t that famous and played in the West but it’s a sensation and one of the most important games in Japanese gaming culture. The game is played both online and in many pubs and bars across Japan.
It’s a mixture of a slot game and a pinball but it’s neither of that. It’s how it’s usually described to the western audience in order to explain the western games that are the most similar to it. The game is about both skill and luck and that’s what makes it so popular.
What is Pachinko?
Let’s start by answering “What is Pachinko” in the first place. It’s a gambling game originating in Japan and one that’s especially popular in gaming establishments such as bars and arcades. It has a cult following both as a game and as a piece of media since there is other content connected to it.
The game is also connected to an anime show that’s incredibly popular in Japan with both young and middle-aged audiences. This show presents a theme of the game and both have a cult following that is interconnected.
How is the Game Played?
As is the case with any popular game this too is rather simple. The ball is released onto the board and the goal is for it to bump into pins. The goal is to reach a certain reward point after which a bonus level is activated and that game is more like slots than pinball.
The game depends on skill in this first round and on luck when it comes to the bonus level. That’s what makes it so exciting and it provides the players with a sense of agency that they can’t get with slots alone.
Pachinko has a long and complicated history since it was around since the 1920s. It was first made in the US and from there it came to Japan where it became more than just a game – instead, it was a cultural phenomenon. The industry became what it is now somewhere in the 30s and Pachinko is the most popular game in Japan ever since.
There were over 300.000 registered arcades in Japan in the 1950s. In the 90s the game comprised as much as 5 percent of the county’s GDP. Now, the game isn’t what it used to be, but it still plays a big role.
Japan banned gambling in 1907. Pachinko wasn’t affected by this ban since it wasn’t considered to be a gambling game, because it’s at least somewhat a game of skill rather than luck. The direct reward of the game also wasn’t money but candy and that’s how it went around the ban. Something simple happened to an early version of slots in the US.
The game is still often played for tokens that can be exchanged for alcoholic beverages or candy since there’s a long tradition that demands so even now when the gambling laws are much looser.
Changes In The Pachinko Culture
The demographic of the players are changing as is the case with most retro games in the west. It’s now played by middle-aged players with an average player age being 40. The age is a bit lower in Tokyo but that’s due to how young the city itself is since a lot of people move there to study and work while they are young.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the game is on its way out. In fact, it’s experiencing a boom since those who play it now have more disposable income than before.
The shape of Things to Come
There are changes in the industry that can be observed even now. For instance, Japan is working heavily on banning smoking wherever it can. That will affect the Pachinko industry since more than half of the players are smoking and it’s common to smoke where the game is played.
Pachinko parlors are growing in popularity and they are increasing their sales despite this. There are also a lot more different machines now and they are also there to accommodate the tastes of different players.
The pandemic has changed the gambling industry as a whole and this goes for the Pachinko parlor as well. This means that more gambling has moved online and so have the Pachinko. It was a safety measure at first but it has also found a place in the gambling habits of those who are used to gaming online.
There are numerous online variations of the game and most of them are mobile since this is the gameplay that’s best suited to this type of gameplay. Many more are being created every day since there’s a market for them.
To Sum Up
Pachinko is the most popular gambling game in Japan. It has been so for more than a century now and there’s a large market for it still. It’s now mostly played by older players that go to the parlors as well as those who enjoy its online version. The game was once responsible for 5 percent of the country’s GDP but now it’s far from being that popular. Still, many players are attracted to its simple gameplay that combines luck and skill. It’s somewhat similar to pinball and to slots at the same time. The game is also connected to numerous manga shows from which it gets its aesthetic.